Medical brain enhancement: New treatment options for patients struggling with mental illness and injury

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Medical brain enhancement: New treatment options for patients struggling with mental illness and injury

Medical brain enhancement: New treatment options for patients struggling with mental illness and injury

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Brain augmentation could help better people's lives and effectively treat conditions like Alzheimer's Disease.
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      Quantumrun Foresight
    • January 30, 2022

    Post text

    Research focused upon brain augmentation and neural technologies—in the form of prosthetic devices—seeks to solve technical obstacles so that such technologies can significantly improve the quality of life of individuals suffering from physical brain trauma, paralysis, limb amputation, mental illness, or a mental disability. 

    Medical brain enhancement context

    Scientists are experimenting with technology that can improve the quality of life for patients living with permanent mental impairments. For instance, a Duke University researcher is developing prosthetic devices that patients can control with their minds. Such devices will assist amputees, and people with degenerative disorders like Huntington’s disease, gain improved mobility and accessibility within their surroundings. These devices work by decoding and implementing electrical signals sent to and from the brain. 

    However, while brain researchers understand the problem that needs to be solved–allowing the brain to communicate with artificial limbs to the same degree as natural limbs–the neural interfaces required are not technologically advanced enough to fulfill this purpose. As an example, software and device development still need to advance significantly to decode the significant number of simultaneous brain signals that allow a person to move their fingers at will. If scientists can find improved ways of decoding the signals from the brain, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will likely play a significant role in this advancement.

    Meanwhile, other researchers are approaching brain enhancement through drug development. One such drug is the triple receptor agonist (TA), which can improve cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s caused due to Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. It does so by stimulating the release of essential hormones and enhancing the quality of neuronal transmissions called synapses.

    In 2017, a drug was developed to improve memory formation in a mouse with the necessary physical attributes to be a model of Alzheimer's disease found in humans. This drug, a novel triple GLP-1/GIP/glucagon receptor agonist, reduces oxidative stress and inflammation while increasing synapse numbers in the brain. 

    Scientists were also able to correct the memory and learning deficits associated with Down Syndrome (DS) patients using a standard animal model. DS is the most diagnosed chromosomal disorder in the US and the leading genetic cause of cognitive disability.  

    Disruptive impact

    Brain augmentation technologies will advance significantly during the 2030s, and in the process, advance healthcare for individuals living with a range of physical and mental disabilities. Such advancements will help moderate booming healthcare costs the aforementioned patients will need less nursing, therapy, and support care. 

    Economically, improvements in medical treatments associated with the brain could potentially improve the productivity levels of national economies by allowing more people—who would typically be excluded from the labor market due to disabilities or intelligence-related deficits—to more actively participate in economic activities. 

    Implications for brain medical enhancement

    Implications for medical brain enhancement may include:

    • Treating cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, by improving memory formation, reducing inflammation, and reducing oxidative stress in patients.
    • Developing advanced brain-controlled prosthetics that allow people with mental and physical disabilities to live a more independent life.
    • Utilizing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to alleviate sensory processing difficulties, one of the handicapping symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
    • Boosting national economies by allowing people with intelligence-related deficits to participate in economic activities where they would usually be excluded.

    Questions to comment on

    • What potential could medical brain enhancement solutions hold for the mental healthcare field in particular?
    • Could medical brain enhancement drugs and devices one day have a noticeable impact on treating individuals with mental disabilities so that they can lead more independent lives?

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